Teaching both in-person and remotely seems all but impossible.

When I first heard this was our role, I wanted to cry. I simply couldn’t figure out how we’d make it all work. I won’t lie, it’s not easy to balance everything. I’m still learning this new role and I’m far from a pro, but here are some things that are making teaching both a little bit easier.

Set Expectations.

Not only are you setting expectations in the classroom for your in-person learners, you are setting expectations for your remote learners AND parents. Being clear with expectations, then sticking to them will help you navigate tricky situations in the future. I made a virtual handbook with everything from a section about me to what I expect my virtual learners to do each day. I listed times that I check my email and SeeSaw each day to reduce frustration from parents if I’m unable to answer questions immediately. My remote learner’s parents were shocked to see how much we do in a typical school day! It was great for parents to understand how much their child is capable of. 

Set a Schedule Daily

We all live and breathe by schedules, remote learners are the same! Just like you have schedules for your students, share a schedule of what to do with your remote learners. Add times and links to things for easy access. In addition, add user name and password information if needed so everything is in one spot. I also send a quick 20 second personalized video for each student every day. I tell them what I liked about their work the day before, what I want them to do today, and what I’m looking forward to doing with them when we do our Google Meet lesson. 

Schedule Time to Meet One-On-One

If we don’t make time for something it never gets done. Make sure you schedule time to meet with your remote learners. I meet with each of my learners daily to provide math and reading instruction. Both lessons are short, and between 15-20 minutes each. But this time is incredibly valuable to me. It gives me real, valid data to base educational decisions on and allows for relationship building. While it’s not always ideal to walk away from my in-person students (especially when there are behaviors happening!) I’m always happy to spend time bonding and learning with my remote students. As for those behaviors, I always tell my parents that safety comes first in my classroom and if I can’t meet them due to behaviors or a safety situation, I’ll do my best to make up the time, or I’ll have one of my assistants teach the lesson. 

Keep Assessing

Take some of that one-on-one time to give baseline assessments. We as special education teacher know that we have to have good data to help make quality educational decision. This week I’m giving the PEAK Comprehensive Assessment (PCA), Handwriting Without Tears Assessment, and the Bracken to my remote learners. Our district is going to give the MAP to remote learners as well. While I can’t control the child’s environment when assessing remotely, I can communicate and provide any accommodations or modifications needed to the parent. If I need the parent to provide and accommodation, I ask ahead of time if it is possible. 

Keep Working on IEP Goals & Take Data

Find a way to organize your data collection and make it happen! Our district had us write remote learning plans for each of our students. This plan details exactly what IEP goals we will work on during remote learning, how the students will receive instruction, and what accommodations and modifications should be given to the student to complete work. I then created a data sheet for each remote learner listing the IEP goals I was measuring (including behavior goals if applicable). Each day after I speak to the parent and review student work, I record the data for the child’s IEP goals. I then keep these papers in my data binder for each child. This is how I will report progress on IEP goals on quarterly progress reports. 

Is it Hard? YES.

Nothing about this year is easy. There are moments I feel like everything around me is on fire and I only have a tiny squirt gun to put it out. But at the end of the day, I’m thrilled to be teaching the students that I love, even if it’s in a non-traditional way. I had to resolve that this year’s goals are not last year’s goals, and that’s ok. I told myself it was ok to put aside rigor and plan day by day because that’s what works. Trying to balance everything I’ve done in years past plus remote learning is impossible. So, I took a long, hard look at the core curriculum and standards addressed in my classroom are and I’m focusing on those. It’s okay not to do everything. It’s okay to feel like you are riding a bike and the wheels are falling off. It’s okay to feel like a first year teacher again. After 17 years in the classroom, I’m back at square one with you all. But, this is temporary. Delivering two methods of quality instruction won’t be the way it is forever. We will get through it together, and we will be better teachers for it. Stay strong, friends! We will get through this!

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